History of migration to FranceThe net migration curve fluctuated widely over the last decade. However, the peak was not reached in 2015 during the refugee crisis. The difference between the number of emigrants and immigrants was highest in 2018. Long before this crisis, France has always welcomed foreigners, several waves have followed one another, such as the Spanish and Portuguese wave during the Iberian dictatorships and the North African wave during the Thirty Glorious Waves (Les Trente Glorieuses). Settled very heterogeneously on French territory, some areas are more ethnically mixed than others, such as the Ile-de-France, and especially Seine-Saint-Denis, where almost a third of the population is foreign. Algerians are the most represented group of foreigners in France, with more than 887,000 people.
The social integration of migrants in FranceMigrants and descendants of migrants are more affected by unemployment than the rest of the French population. All the same, migrants can be found in different sectors, for example, in 2018, almost 13 percent of craftsmen, traders or business managers in France were foreigners. However, the direct descendants of immigrants also suffer from inactivity, their activity rate is almost as low as that of migrants. Gender and geographical origin also influence the chances of access to employment. Non-European foreign women are those most affected by unemployment.
Migrants, illegal immigrants, and refugees in FranceThe reasons for migration to France are in the vast majority of cases mainly due to family or university studies. Issuance of residence permits for economic reasons was in the minority in 2021. When foreigners are in an irregular situation on French soil, clandestine migrants have four options: continue in hiding, return voluntarily to their country, receive assistance for their return or be forcibly deported. Since 2013, assisted returns are noticeably less numerous than before.
Among the reasons invoked for obtaining a residence permit, nearly 40,000 mentionned humanitarian reason in 2021. This category includes what institutions call refugees, i.e. any person who has fled their country because of a fear of persecution or conflict requiring international protection. In 2015, Europe welcomed refugees fleeing the war in Syria. Unlike for its neighbours, few refugees arrived in France. That same year, 20,000 refugees were granted asylum, less than one per commune.
France divided on the migration issueWhat has been called "the migrant crisis" in France has aroused strong emotions among the French population. The subject divided citizens, with more than 80 percent of the French saying that it could not be discussed peacefully. Although the majority of the French consider their country having a responsibility to welcome migrants, they are a minority in thinking that France has the economic capacity to receive them. On the other hand, more people than ever think that foreigners living in France should have the right to vote in all local elections.
Moreover, while thousands of Ukrainians are fleeing their country following the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army, the debate seems to be far from over.